Police weapons in vehicles are not secure

Guns should be secured indoors in a locked case, not left in a car outside

letters@thetribunenews.comJuly 10, 2013 

Arroyo Grande police Chief Steve Annibali speaks during a news conference in 2011.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

It’s time for local law enforcement agencies to revisit a policy that allows off-duty officers to store weapons inside “secure” vehicles parked outside their homes. As we saw over the weekend, even a locked car with an alarm is vulnerable.

On Sunday night, someone smashed a window of an unmarked police vehicle parked in front of the home of Arroyo Grande police Chief Steve Annibali. The chief’s handgun, ammunition, ID and police badge — all stored in a bag under the car’s rear seat — were stolen.

This was not an isolated incident; it was the third time over the past five years that weapons have gone missing from vehicles belonging to well-known local law enforcement officers.

In 2008, a loaded handgun was stolen from an unlocked vehicle driven by former Paso Robles police Chief Lisa Solomon. A few years later, Paul Brown, a former San Luis Obispo city councilman, resigned from the Morro Bay Police Department after two guns were stolen from his personal car parked outside his San Luis Obispo home.

In the most recent incident in Arroyo Grande, the chief acknowledged violating city policy, which requires that employee take-home vehicles be parked in a home driveway. Annibali parked on the street because a load of landscaping dirt was in the driveway.

We’re not certain the location would have made any difference; cars parked in driveways can also be targets for burglars.

We’re far more concerned about whether it’s safe for law enforcement officers to store weapons in their vehicles at all, even when the necessary precautions are followed.

We should point out that the Lexipol Policy Manual — a compendium of policies and procedures used by many California law enforcement agencies — allows officers to leave guns and other valuables in secure vehicles.

But according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla, the recommended “best practice” is for officers to secure their weapons inside the home, rather than the car — preferably in locked gun cases. That’s what the Sheriff’s Office requires, Cipolla said.

That makes sense to us; it might take a little more effort, but it could avert some serious, even deadly, consequences.

If they don’t already do so, we strongly urge all local law enforcement agencies to follow the safest course by requiring officers to lock up weapons in the safety of their homes.

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